Steve Adler and I were standing in an overcrowded bar last night when a woman, seeing Steve's old-school Chargers jacket, started talking trash. "My boys are going to crush your team", she exclaimed. She said that she would be "on the sidelines" and also "in the endzone", which I explained to her were two different things, to see 'her' Ravens put the beat down in San Diego. I was unaware that Steve Bisciotti was married, but I was happy that his wife's rage was aimed at Steve and his jacket.
At one point, the lady looked at me for a sign of NFL affiliation. I would no doubt be the next victim of her trash-talk, which would definitely be backed up by Ray Lewis and the entire Ravens defense. Without finding an NFL affiliation on my clothing, she went back to Steve, who was responding to her bravado by repeatedly saying "Good luck to you and your team".
So that's where we are. The Ravens are 3-3 on the road and have lost to some truly terrible teams, yet a great majority of Ravens fans feel like the Baltimore team will simply steamroll the Chargers on Sunday Night Football. Why do they think this? Because Ray Lewis, who the team went 4-0 without in the last month, is back! Let's disregard the fact that he was on the field for their losses in Tennessee, Seattle and Jacksonville. Those problems are a thing of the past! Ray-ray is back!
The game on Sunday night will come down to pass rush and pass protection. The San Diego Chargers have shown two weeks in a row now that they can put up points when Philip Rivers has time to throw. Whether or not he'll have that time, with Jared Gaither taking on Terrell Suggs (just the best of a big bag of tricks that Baltimore Defense Coordinator Chuck Pagano has to us), will be the biggest factor in determining if the Chargers can move the ball and score.
Joe Flacco is often criticized as being a QB with "all of the tools" that can't seem to find the consistency. When you hear this criticism of QBs, it actually means one of two things. Number one, the QB gets hurt easily and his performance is greatly affected when he plays through the pain (think Matthew Stafford), or number two (and the one that's applicable with Flacco), the QB holds onto the ball too long, doesn't get his WRs open with his throws (waiting for them to get open before throwing it to them) and is susceptible to getting sacked/hit a lot.
In a nutshell, if you can get pressure on Joe Flacco, you can shut down the Ravens passing attack. He'll throw some picks, start pulling the ball down before he should and generally make bad decisions.
The Chargers gameplan is easy on paper, hard on the field. They need to keep the Ravens pass-rushers at bay, either through great blocking or with creative screen passes and draw plays. On the other side of the ball, Greg Manusky needs to find a way to get pressure on Joe Flacco. If San Diego can get a lead and take Ray Rice out of the game, and Coach Manusky can fire up those blitzes, it might be enough for a win and for Manusky to keep his job in 2012.